im·​pe·​tus | \ ˈim-pə-təs How to pronounce impetus (audio) \

Definition of impetus

1a(1) : a driving force : impulse
b : stimulation or encouragement resulting in increased activity
2 : the property possessed by a moving body in virtue of its mass and its motion used of bodies moving suddenly or violently to indicate the origin and intensity of the motion

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Impetus Has Latin Roots

You already have plenty of incentive to learn the origin of "impetus," so we won't force the point. "Impetus" comes from Latin, where it means "attack or assault"; the verb "impetere" was formed by combining the prefix in- with petere, meaning "to go to or seek." "Petere" also gives us other words suggesting a forceful urging or momentum, such as "appetite," "perpetual," and "centripetal." "Impetus" describes the kind of force that encourages an action ("the impetus behind the project") or the momentum of an action already begun ("the meetings only gave impetus to the rumors of a merger").

Examples of impetus in a Sentence

In a revealing comment, Mr. Updike says an impetus for Rabbit, Run was the "threatening" success of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, the signature book of the 1950s Beat Generation, and its frenetic search for sensation. — Dennis Farney, Wall Street Journal, 16 Sept. 1992 But 1939 gave new impetus to the Western with the Cecil B. de Mille railway epic Union Pacific, John Ford's skillful and dramatic Stagecoach,  … and George Marshall's classic comic Western, Destry Rides Again. — Ira Konigsberg, The Complete Film Dictionary, 1987 … new techniques of navigation and shipbuilding enlarged trade and the geographical horizon; newly centralized power absorbed from the declining medieval communes was at the disposal of the monarchies and the growing nationalism of the past century gave it impetus — Barbara W. Tuchman, The March of Folly, 1984 His discoveries have given impetus to further research. the reward money should be sufficient impetus for someone to come forward with information about the robbery
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Recent Examples on the Web

But the Trump administration did use the term, giving impetus to potential legal challenges in Guatemala. New York Times, "The U.S. and Guatemala Reached an Asylum Deal: Here’s What It Means," 28 July 2019 Much of the impetus is coming from the younger set, whose presence was especially noticeable at the rallies, typically lively affairs with plenty of music, flag-waving and chants, some of them profane. Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY, "With Ricardo Rosselló out as governor, Puerto Rico 'needs to regain its moral compass and hope.' But, how?," 26 July 2019 As the professional soccer league that was created as a condition by FIFA to award the 1994 World Cup to the United States, MLS was born out of the impetus to grow the game in this country. Ann Killion,, "World Cup complete: Now it’s time to grow the professional game here at home," 8 July 2019 Part of the impetus of the conversation was the statements that the vice president made about his work with segregationists. Matt Stevens,, "Biden says Harris caught him off guard in debate," 5 July 2019 Daniels said part of the impetus to move its productions out from behind the paywall was inspired by advertisers who are eager to place ads with premium, professionally produced content. Wendy Lee,, "How YouTube’s Susanne Daniels is getting ahead of streaming wars," 26 June 2019 Metro, whose regional land use planning process was part of the impetus for the creation of Damascus as a city, supports ending it in favor of Happy Valley’s plans to expand., "Zombie city Damascus in a battle for its soul, future," 22 June 2019 Facebook has said that one of the impetuses for creating the currency was to serve the unbanked. Danielle Abril, Fortune, "Facebook’s Digital Currency Libra Is Forcing U.S. Regulators to Grapple With Blockchain," 20 June 2019 An aide from his office said that much of the impetus behind this focus has been driven by constituent feedback. Li Zhou, Vox, "Banning overdraft fees: Cory Booker’s new idea to tackle big banks," 2 Aug. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'impetus.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of impetus

1641, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for impetus

Latin, assault, impetus, from impetere to attack, from in- + petere to go to, seek — more at feather

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Statistics for impetus

Last Updated

7 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for impetus

The first known use of impetus was in 1641

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More Definitions for impetus



English Language Learners Definition of impetus

: a force that causes something (such as a process or activity) to be done or to become more active
technical : a force that causes an object to begin moving or to continue to move

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More from Merriam-Webster on impetus

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for impetus

Spanish Central: Translation of impetus

Nglish: Translation of impetus for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of impetus for Arabic Speakers

Comments on impetus

What made you want to look up impetus? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move or obtain by small maneuvers

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